Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in.
Who you are as a leader

When ever I look at any organisation I am in effect seeing the style and type of leader who runs it, their character shows through.

From the first online impression the brand portrays, to the real impression I feel when I walk through is front door and meet the people, the impact of the leadership is everywhere. Good leadership makes a good impression throughout, it should be seen and felt at every level.

I recently arrived at a new client to see that their disabled parking was at the other end of the car park from the front door, while the executives had named parking bays right next to the front door.

My first question to the directors was why? Followed up with the obvious second question, what first impression do you want to make to people about your values as a business? After a pregnant pause (and implausible excuse that HSE said we needed to keep the front area easily clear so the fire brigade could quickly be deployed), the directors looked at me and said 'we do have a written equal opportunities policy in place' and 'no-one has ever complained'. I then asked what impression this first impression gave to their staff, customers and suppliers? They said 'no idea, but now you mention it there are always a few staff comments when it rains about them and us culture'.

I often see great leadership happen through the delivery of small details which great results can be achieved. For any leader making change happen successfully relies as much on the big picture plan as the implementation of the minute detail. That detail delivery can only be achieved through the character of the leaders themselves. Recognising and using that individual style to mould and shape how leaders decide to lead is fundamental to leadership success.

Great leadership is about making change by demonstrating character-based leadership skills, in other words, leading from “who you are” and not from power or position. Everyone is different and that makes every leader different. Who you are is something you cannot change, successful leadership is about developing your style, based around who you are not on trying to be something you aren't.  Trying to be someone else, from Richard Branson to Steve Jobs maybe fashionable, but its not who you are, so learn from them but don't try to be them.

The idea of character-based leadership resonates with leadership advisors today. Why? Well in my example earlier the leaders were impressed by vehicles, thats how they valued their status, hence their focus as leaders was on highlighting that attribute of who they were. When they thought about what was really important to them they immediately realised what impression they wanted to provide and the impact their current focus was making. Reflecting to my observation and then positively responding to it, told us more about who they are and what was really important to them.

By the time a visited my car obsessed customer the following week, the personalised director parking places at the front door had been replaced by disabled parking area, and the directors cars were parked alongside everyone else in the general parking. They recognised their characters as leaders were being reflected in their business, and not for the best. The result of that simple change was that staff started to engage with them more openly and the staff survey a few months later reported that people felt more valued, when questioned further staff reported that everyone was now seen to be treated equally. 
Great leadership is always about change, not just making it but really understanding it and how to pre-empt where possible and react where necessary to it. Forward planning is the most obvious way in which leaders pre-empt their market. Planning for tomorrow as an inherent culture is one key attribute which sustainable successful organisations possess, but it has to be matched by a culture of implementation. Planning is only a dream if nothing changes. The ability to see that and make that simple immediate change, reflects an openness to change and an approach to listening and implementing change, not just talking about it.

What changes?

In business, everything changes all the time, innovative new products and services become mainstream, then classics then legacy then discontinued. Change is the law of life as John F. Kennedy said, great leadership is about looking for change.

Some changes can be strategic, such as new markets or new products etc but play to who leaders are come from soft leadership skills by playing on who you are as a leader. Playing to you and your style is often as important in delivering effective leadership.

Like to know more about how to lead your business successfully? then see How to Take the Guess Work out of your Business Success